My name is Janet McNabb and I am a pancreatic cancer survivor.
My cancer was diagnosed in September 1996, although I am sure much has changed since then. I had been having so much pain in my abdomen and a lot of indigestion. I first noticed the pain when riding in the car on long trips.
I was working as a registered nurse in the OR at the time. I went to my local gastroenterologist, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where I live. My doctor first did an EGD (a test to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum) and determined that I had stomach bacteria, so he treated me for it.
The pain continued. Often, it got so bad that I had to be helped out of the OR. When this happened I would be taken to same-day surgery, sedated, and someone would have to take me home. This continued for 15 months. My GI doctor suggested having my gallbladder removed, so I did it. Unfortunately, my surgeon said there was nothing wrong with my gallbladder; the surgery hadn’t been necessary at all. He was not happy with my GI doctor.
The pain persisted and I continued to put up with it for several more months. Finally, my doctor came to see me after one of these episodes. He told me there was nothing else he could do and I had to learn to live with the pain.
I Get a Second Opinion
I continued to have severe pain in the middle of my stomach, which also radiated into my back. My husband Bill told me to get another opinion, but I was hesitant. Bill insisted that I ask someone at work who I should see in Charleston at The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). My good friend Dr. Fred Bellamy, an anesthesiologist, who had done his residency at MUSC, told me to see Dr. Bill Marsh. I made an appointment with him not knowing he had left MUSC.
I went to see Dr. Marsh with my husband and within 15 minutes he said I needed an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), which is a procedure that combines upper GI endoscopy and x-rays, used to treat problems of the bile and pancreatic ducts. I received a call from Dr. Paul Tarnasky’s office at MUSC to schedule an ERCP. On August 14, 1996, my husband and I went to Charleston for the procedure. Per insurance, they had to check the bile ducts first. They found the pressures to be extremely high and did a sphincterotomy of the bile duct instead. I went home but within a few days I was so sick I couldn’t sit up. I called Dr. Tarnasky and he said I needed to return for an ERCP of my pancreatic duct. The appointment was scheduled for the following week.